The 29th Anniversary of the Accident the Changed my Life

29 years ago to the day, on May 9th, 1992, I was ejected through the windshield from the back seat of the car I was traveling in with two of my friends at the time. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, because I was sitting in the center of the back seat, having a conversation with the driver and front seat passenger, and BAM, we were hit head-on by a car of elderly women who swerved into our lane doing about 40mph in each vehicle.

A single 4″ fracture in my skull, 7 spiral fractures in my right leg and a broken right elbow, as I bounced across 2 lanes of traffic and into the grass on the other side of the road. I also lost my sight for 5-6 hours, and went in and out of consciousness during my 6-hour stay in the hospital.

I was brought by ambulance to Windham Hospital but had no overnight observation, no casting of my fractures, no other treatment other than a few sutures to my right elbow and I was released back into the world. I also have (what will probably be) lifelong tinnitus as a result of slamming my head through the windshield.

I limped into the ER waiting room and had no idea where I was, or even who I was. I had complete and total amnesia and some serious pain and trauma. I was wearing a Casio databank watch at the time with phone numbers stored in it. I sat in the lobby of the ER on the payphone, dialing number after number from my watch, until someone recognized my voice and could bring me home.

As a result of this one car accident, I lost ALL memories from the first 20 years of my life. It took me over 2 decades to stitch many of those memories back together, but there are still big gaps. Imagine being given a shoe box filled with black and white Polaroid photos you’ve never seen before from someone else, and asked to put them in chronological order. That was my life for nearly the last 3 decades.

This accident permanently changed my ability to sleep “normally”, but I gained an eidetic memory as a result. The eidetic memory is the most interesting part. I can remember so many things now with razor sharp clarity, but that also includes all of the painful memories I’ve experienced since the accident.

It’s been long, difficult recovery, but I’m glad I’m still able to walk, talk, laugh, share and learn in this world.

My life has had so many weird twists and turns, but this one event, was a clear and obvious pivot point that helped define who I am today.

HOWTO: Run Proxmox 6.3 under VMware ESXi with networked guest instances

One of my machines in my production homelab is an ESXi server, a long-toothed upgrade from the 5.x days.

I keep a lot of legacy VMs and copies of every version of Ubuntu, Fedora, Slackware, Debian, CentOS and hundreds of other VMs on it. It’s invaluable to be able to spin up a test machine on any OS, any capacity, within seconds.

Recently, the need to ramp up fast on Proxmox has come to the front of my priority list for work and specific customer needs. I don’t have spare, baremetal hardware to install Proxmox natively, so I have to spin it up under my existing VMware environment as a guest.

The problem here, is that running one hypervisor under another hypervisor as a guest, requires some specific preparations, so that the networking of the nested guest, will have its packets correctly and cleanly routed through the parent host’s physical network interfaces.

Read on for how to configure this in your own environment!

VMware ESXi

In VMware ESXi, there are a few settings that you need to adjust, to enable “Promiscuous Mode”, “Forged Transmits” and “MAC Changes”. These are found under the “VM Network” section of your ESXi web-ui:

Once you’ve made these changes, you need to restart your VMware host in order to enable them for newly-created VMs under that host.

VMware Workstation

If you’re running VMware Workstation instead of ESXi, you need to make sure your ‘vmnet’ devices in /dev/ have the correct permissions to permit enabling promiscuous mode. You can do that with a quick chmod 0777 /dev/vmnet* or you can adjust the VMware init script that creates these nodes. Normally these would be adjusted in ‘udev’ rules, but those rules are run before the VMware startup, so changes are overwritten by VMware’s own automation.

In /etc/init.d/vmware, make the following adjustment:

vmwareStartVmnet() {
   vmwareLoadModule $vnet
   "$BINDIR"/vmware-networks --start >> $VNETLIB_LOG 2>&1
   chmod 666 /dev/vmnet* # Add this line
}

Now that you have your host hypervisor configured to support nested guest hypervisors, let’s proceed with the Proxmox installation.

Download the most-recent Proxmox ISO image and create a new VM in your VMware environment (ESXi or Workstation). Make sure to give your newly created VM enough resources to be able to launch its own VMs. I created a VM with 32GB RAM and 2TB of storage, configured as a ZFS RAIDZ-3 array (5 x 400GB disks). That configuration looks like this:

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Thoughts about cheating on Zwift

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Let’s talk about cheating for a moment. There, I’ve said it. Throw the tomatoes, the Park wrench or the AppleTV remote at me. Save the criticism for the comment section!

I’m a huge data nerd. Many of you already know that. Having clean and correct data on Zwift, only helps us improve as athletes and riders.

I’ve put a LOT of thought into this over the last few years, and have had personal conversations with Eric, Steve Beckett., Jon and others about it, including sharing some of the ideas I’ve had to mitigate it. I’ve read the rants, the promoters, the detractors, all of it from all sides. So has Zwift HQ.

Forget streaming video of riders, or putting trainers on a platform with integrated scales or integrating weight-in equipment into the bikes themselves. When you do that, you kill the enjoyment for others who can’t reach that echelon, but still want to “race” on Zwift. You’d be excluding people who might have the ability, but not the means.

So here’s my proposal, a draft that I’ve been cooking up for a few years, which hopes to not only help curb cheating, but also increase the adoption of Zwift in local centers, the LBS, as well as make sure you don’t constrain race events to KICKR or TacX Neo only events.

  1. Begin the distribution of Certified Zwift Engineers (aka “ZCE”). These would initially probably be the bike mechanic at your LBS to start with. They’re already there, they have the gear and they’re probably fixing your bike or adding equipment each season already. The ZCE would be able to train up on all aspects of Zwift, including app/game configuration, optimizing the experience for the end user. Oh, you have a Dell laptop with an integrated video card? Here’s some settings you can apply to make that work for you during crowded group events.They’d also be trained in how to configure and validate bike fit, power meters and sensors that tie back to the machine/device used to run Zwift. Having drop-outs? Here’s the tools to identify drop-outs and some workarounds that can help.

    This engages the LBS mechanics and the LBS itself to be a part of the growing Zwift ecosystem, not only just as an endpoint for bike upgrades and repair, but a full, end-to-end solution for building out a Zwift environment for the riders.

    Incentivizing those LBS mechanics to become ZCE then has the potential to ensure that more people come into the shop for bike fit, possible recommendations, upgrades, etc. I haven’t met a single bike mechanic who hates cycling. They do it because they have a passion for it, and they, like others, want to grow that passion. Who wouldn’t turn down the ability to learn something new and exciting about your passion?

  2. Those same LBS that have their mechanics certified as ZCE, can now brand their shop as “Zwift Certified Training Center”, and teach riders how to use Zwift (ala spin class? LBS Fondo?). Tactics, when to drain your power-up so you can pull the next one over that hill. Buying a trainer at Best Buy won’t have the same overall value as buying it at your Zwift Certified LBS, even if Best Buy has them for 10% cheaper.
  3. Those same LBS + ZCE, can now perform equipment certification and qualification. They can properly calibrate your Power Meter + trainer combination, regardless of what you’re using. Forget trusting Qalvin on your iOS device to calibrate your Quarq PM or trusting your Garmin Vector pedals to be accurate out of the box, let the ZCE at your LBS (ZBS?) handle that for you.

Trust, but verify, as we say in my field.

They can also do the weigh-in right there at the shop, after calibrating your gear. The output of that now-calibrated Zwift setup and weigh in, is a printed certificate of authenticity of your bike, trainer, gear and your own fitness.

A piece of paper, so what you say? But wait, there’s more. What can you do with that?

Printed ON that certificate, is a unique code, generated by Zwift itself (this service does not yet exist, and would have to be created, more on that in a moment). You would then be responsible for making sure that your gear is not “altered” before or during a race. Alterations like that can be detected (ZwiftPower + formerly ZADA have tools to do this already).

This unique code would be entered before you join a race event, either at the time you sign up, or right as the event starts. It would be entered much like we do for jersey promo codes today. This is your “Zwift Race Number” (ZRN? Too many TLAs yet?).

If your gear is found to be ‘suspect’, you are unable to qualify until you remediate your gear. Your ZRN is now locked, and you can’t use it to enter any ‘official’ race events until address it. To do so, you get one free re-calibration at the ZBS, and they can unlock your ZRN for you, before further re-calibrations come at a cost.

So, what’s missing from this approach?

For starters, Zwift does not have the ability to generate these unique codes, nor any way to manage them in your user account record. Yet.

But the scaffolding to enter codes to unlock capabilities is already there. They’d have to design and build that frame work, and work with partners to make sure fits the needs of their own roadmap. It’s not something to be taken lightly, but neither is eSports or the growing community of cheaters who are going undetected.

They also don’t have a ‘Certification’ program, defined criteria, training modules or anything like that. That curriculum would have to be developed, tested and disseminated amongst the interested LBS/ZBS, training centers, bike mechanics and anyone else who wants to open up their own Zwift Certified Training Center.

But having the certification program begins to create a standard, that all trainers and eSports athletes have to begin to adhere to. It’s a great position for Zwift to be in right now, helping to define the standards and at the same time, increasing their market share by pushing eSports and ZCEs/ZRNs into the LBS.

You, as a potential eSports athlete, would now be held accountable for making sure your own gear is calibrated, your weight accurate and true, and that you manage that ZRN with all the power that comes with it.

As eSports moves up the ladder and starts adding purses for winning, and actual financial incentives, sponsorships, team selection criteria, it becomes more and more important to take steps like this.

So sure, throw your streaming camera up there, show people you’re really the 70kg your profile says you are, that’s fine. But if you want to compete in a race that has value, actual impact, financial incentives to win, then grab your trainer, bike and head to your local LBS, get weighed in, certified, and enter that ZRN the next time you want to join those events.

At some regular interval, or when you upgrade gear, bike, power meter, or the start of a new season, you go back to the LBS/ZBS, schedule an appointment for a bike tune-up, equipment review and re-certify with your new ZRN, ready to smash those Zwift Racing Event records online!

I think this has some real potential, by engaging the participating LBS’ to get onboard with certifying Zwift equipment, trainers, power meters, but also bringing them into the fold of eSports.

It’s very unlikely someone who has the intent to cheat, is going to take all the effort to get their ZRN at their local ZBS, take that gear home, and alter it to gain an advantage. If they do, there are checks-and-balances in place to DQ them, invalidate their ZRN until they go back and re-certify, and keep those events clean.

It also helps validate those riders who TRULY want to compete, and will make sure their gear is dialed in.

So let the cheaters can go ahead and tinker with their gear, take the effort to certify and then falsify their gear and get DQ’d. They only do that to the embarrassment of themselves, not Zwift as a growing eSports platform.

Your thoughts? Let’s discuss.

HOWTO: Backup your Android device over WiFi with rsync (NO root needed)

I stumbled upon this recently and wanted to add it to the list of other HOWTOs I have on using rsync to back up your device or machine. I’m a BIG fan of rsync, and use it all the time for backing up Linux, BSD, Windows machines, tablets and pretty much everything.

Now, it’s drop-dead simple to back up your Android device over wireless, using an rsync app on the device, and talking to any rsyncd you’ve got set up to receive that data. The setup isn’t terribly intuitive using this specific app, but it does work really well.

I found an app called “Syncopoli” through F-Droid (a free alternative to the Google Play Store), and installed it as a means to try to back up my non-rooted Android device. On my rooted Android devices, I use Titanium Backup Pro, which works fabulously. Without root, you’re very limited in the permissions you have available to read and copy data onto and off of the device.

So, install Syncopoli, and then click the 3 dot menu in the upper-right corner of the app to access the “Settings” pane. In here, you’ll want to set your rsync username, password, any relevant keys or other data you need, and also the IP address of the rsync server. Since my rsync server resides on the same side of the LAN, I also checked the box to back up over WiFi only.

I’ll play with setting up a secure tunnel later, so I can back up to my rsync server over the live Internet.

Once the global settings are correctly configured for your environment, click the (+) sign in the lower-right corner to set up a sync profile. Here, you’ll specify what and where you want your data backed up.

Here’s where things get a little tricky. Initially, I thought it was looking for the IP of the Origin and Destination, but it’s actually looking for a path on the Origin side, and an rsync module on the Destination side. It’s not terribly intuitive, but after I figured that out and reconfigured my rsync server with a specific module (stanza) in rsyncd.conf to allow the Android to back up to, it started working.

To go back in and edit your profile, long-press the profile name and choose “Edit Profile” from the popup dialog.

I also went back into the global Settings and set some optimized rsync options (-avP –inplace –partial), and then clicked the “|>” play button in the upper-right to kick off the rsync job. Tapping on the profile after starting the job, I could then see the log on the client end of my Android device. It was these logs which helped me debug the errors initially with the connection and Origin/Destination paths being incorrect.

So my Origin ended up being /storage/extSdCard (my external media card in my Android device) and the destination was my “Android” module on the server. As I type this blog post, it’s pulled over 1,277 files and counting.

Quick, easy, fantastic and you don’t need root!

The Enormous Dating Fraud: Match.com, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and OkCupid

The Top 4 dating sites out there; Match.com, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and OkCupid are so completely overrun with fraud now, it’s appalling.

Note: Match.com, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and OkCupid are all owned by the same parent company, along with roughly 40 other dating site properties.

I’ve been a free and paid member of these sites for 8 years (with 3 years off in the middle as I was dating someone). I have spent hundreds of hours pouring through profiles, code, APIs, mobile apps and other interactions with these specific sites.

Right from the top, I’m going to stronly suggest you do not give any of these sites your money! Do not subscribe, do not give them a credit card, do not let them bill you, do not give them a single dollar. None.

I’ll break down exactly why below..

Let’s start with the biggest and worst offender: Match.com:

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HOWTO: Back up your Android device with native rsync

Android
Recently, one of my Android devices stopped reading the memory card. Opening the device, the microSD card was so hot I couldn’t hold it in my hand. The battery on that corner of the device had started to swell slightly. I’ve used this device every day for 3+ years without any issues. Until this week.

I also use TitaniumBackup to back up my Android to this external memory card, but since the device can’t read the card, I can’t back it up to the card.

The card is fine, and works in my other devices, as well as being seen from the desktop. Other, blank microSD card can’t be read in the device and similarly overheat within seconds. It’s bad.

Enter rsync, the Swiss-Army Knife of power, to back up my Android device!

Here’s how:

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HOWTO: Fix missing mouse clicks in VMware with Linux guests

This was a bugger to find out, and required installing and reinstalling Linux a dozen times in different ways, to narrow down on the actual cause.

If you run VMware Workstation on your Linux host, and are also trying to run Linux guests, you may run into a situation where your mouse cursor in the guest moves and tracks as you would expect, but any attempt to right-click or left-click is ignored entirely.

During my tests, I noticed that this happens 100% of the time with Ubuntu 14.04.4, does not happen with Ubuntu 14.04.2, and does not happen with Ubuntu 16.04.

But it is reproducible.

Originally, I thought this was due to having the wrong “mouse” vs. “vmmouse” driver in my Xorg configuration. That didn’t prove to be true.

Next, I tried doing some VMX file hacks, which also failed. I also tried disabling the “Drag and Drop” and “Cut and Paste” options in the VMware options. That also, did not solve the problem.

To fix the problem, go into your Guest settings and under the Processor sub-section, you want to uncheck the “Virtualize CPU performance counters” option. You can leave the rest as-is.

The option should look like this:

VMware disable CPU counters

That’s it! Hopefully that helps someone else out there running into the same problem!

HOWTO: Purge Amazon Echo History with iMacros

Amazon Echo IoT Companion

This one is quick and easy… Have you ever wanted to go back into your Amazon Echo device and delete the history of all commands you asked Alexa to do for you? All the searches? All the weather requests?

Well, you can… manually from the mobile app, or from the Amazon Alexa Configuration page, but that can take hours, because each card you wan to remove is a minimum of two taps or clicks.

But there’s an even easier way… iMacros!

Load up the iMacros browser extension (Chrome version) (Firefox version) and create a new macro. You can edit it ‘raw’, if you wish, but you want only these lines in your macro:

VERSION BUILD=8970419 RECORDER=FX
TAB T=1
URL GOTO=http://alexa.amazon.com/spa/index.html#cards
TAG POS=1 TYPE=BUTTON ATTR=TXT:More
TAG POS=1 TYPE=SPAN ATTR=TXT:Removecard

Now when you load up the Amazon Alexa Configuration page, you can just launch your macro from iMacros and play it in a loop to progressively delete each and every one of those cards in seconds.

I personally wiped out over 5,000 cards in under 2 minutes with this approach. It works great!

Comment below if you have any luck with it, or modify it in a way that becomes more useful to others.

No more criminals for president. Not this time. Never again.

No more Hillary Clinton - no more fraudI rarely speak out on specific presidential candidates, but I’ve pretty much had enough of this comedy unfolding that we call our political process. With Trump making a complete arse of himself, Ted Cruz saying “we need another war president” and other candidates flat-out lying, making up facts and paying third-party companies to create false campaigns and disinformation on their competition, I’ve had it.

The worst offender? That’s right… Hillary Rodham Clinton. A felon, admittedly breaking dozens of federal laws, and trying to use her fame to erase the legality of those laws. Her campaign continues to build on its own corruption, greed and malice.

Now, after openly admitting she had classified information in the form of emails and attachments, on her own private email server in her home, the State Department is trying to delay the release of those emails until after the Iowa caucus, because the release would be so utterly damaging to her campaign, that she would lose that caucus and have to forego the general election.

But we’re not talking about a few classified emails, we’re talking about 50,000 classified emails. The first wave is to release 9,000 of them, but her campaign wants a 1-month extension, until just after the Iowa numbers are counted, before releasing them. They have the emails now, they’re not going anywhere, so why the delay?

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HOWTO: Run multiple Zwift sessions on the same PC (Windows only)

Zwift LogoMany people have asked me to write this up and I’m happy to be the first person to push Zwift this far with multiple, simultaneous sessions.

I can say with confidence that up to this point, I’m actually the only person who has this working correctly without overwriting or clobbering critical logs and data files. Others have tried some hacky methods, but they all result in instability and data loss (see “What does NOT work, and why” below).

I started this quest because I am working on a product design (“Secret Sauce” to be withheld in this HOWTO) that involves running multiple Zwift sessions on a single, 100% wireless PC, with the only wire being the single power cable to the wall. No USB cables, no video cables, no HDMI cables, no network cables.

Let’s get some general housekeeping out of the way first…

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